Five MA Fashion graduates, five questions. Let the graduation games begin.
What should you actually do straight after graduation? What are the best and worst things that recent graduates have done, which you could shield yourself from? How to survive in the fast-paced fashion business after you’ve left Saint Martins?
From Bright Young Things to BFC and New Gen: Mary Katrantzou, Faustine Steinmetz, Sasu Kauppi, Anne Karine Thorbjornsen and Sadie Williams are giving you advice they wish they would’ve gotten.
What do you regret not doing straight after graduating from the MA?
Mary Katrantzou (class of 2008): Once I graduated, everything progressed so quickly. Every decision I had to make was a paving stone of progression and I wish I took less time making those decisions! My inexperience made me super cautious, but in the end you have to always trust your instinct.
Faustine Steinmetz (2011): Looking for a job!
Sasu Kauppi (2011): Maybe I should’ve started looking for funding for the company right away; write a business plan, find interns and look for places to produce orders, tags, labels…
Anne Karine Thorbjornsen (2012): I regret not preparing more for what I wanted to do after graduating. I treated those times before and after graduation as two completely different states, which was silly. It made me feel quite helpless and confused the following 3-4 months after graduating.
Sadie Williams (2013): No regrets.
What was the best thing that you have done?
Mary: Deciding to launch my label and not letting the cautious voices around me deter me from it. Thanks to the incredible support of the BFC and the New Gen scheme, I was able to launch my first ready to wear collection in SS09.
Faustine: I had a break, funny enough I actually worked as a graphic designer for a while… and I feel like it really helped me to be more objective about the whole experience. That way I managed to figure out what worked and what did not work. I feel like it also helped me to put my work into perspective and confront it with reality. Designing for school and designing for real people are two very different things. There are a few things that you need to learn before you can make clothes that people actually want to wear. When I was doing the MA, my interests were different; I just wanted to create something new and different no matter what it looked like….
Sasu: It’s probably the whole progress that I’m in all the time. How the company gradually grows. I wanted to start from the bottom (also by coming back to my home country) and try to create a successful brand as well as a business.
Anne Karine: The best I have done so far is to make a decision about what I want to do; make the structure and plan on how to achieve it.
Sadie Williams: Managing to pull off a pretty successful project for Selfridges’ ‘Bright Young Things.’ I still can’t believe I had my own window! (I seriously used to daydream about dressing them!) And dressing Barbie of course! Actual Barbie!
When you look back, what weren’t you prepared for?
Mary: I don’t think anything can really prepare you for how intense our industry is! It’s fast paced, demanding and you need to be fully committed.
Faustine: The change of rhythm! If you start considering this time like holidays and wake up at 2 PM, you will end up depressed in no time!
Sasu: The fact that some stores wanted to make buys immediately after my graduation. I couldn’t produce them, since I couldn’t get a loan and didn’t have the money.
Sadie: I hadn’t anticipated creating work under my own name (I thought I would take on freelance design work for fashion companies), so the entire project was a massive learning curve. It required so many skills for so many different elements: clothing design and production, window design and installation, press/interviews, financial/business skills, communication with different departments/interns/suppliers; outsourcing resources like digital printing and seamstresses. I couldn’t have pulled it off alone. Having the right people on board to help out is so important.
What do you wish you had been told after you left college?
Mary: It’s difficult to specify what you should and shouldn’t do once you finish – it is a decision entirely personal. You definitely need to become secure in your decision making. The ability to think independently and make quick decisions is one which will develop as your career strengthens, but it is something Louise Wilson instilled in me during my MA.
Faustine: Honestly, nothing…I had no disillusions about anything. I had already worked at the lowest level of the industry for 3 years before I started my MA. I think, to be honest, the only thing I needed someone to tell me was: “you are not that bad of a designer, stop doubting yourself, get back to it!”
Sasu: That you will be forgotten unless you stay active.
Anne Karine: I think it’s more whilst still in education, to be more prepared practically. You get told this and that but during your MA years you are only perfecting your design skills and struggling to create something amazing. Not really considering how it would be different if it was the ‘real’ world. Which is great as you are in education and this is the time when you truly can be creative without any shackles, but at the same time the gap between the world in education and the world out there felt so big, quite overwhelming. It would be better to know the next steps to proceed afterwards, somehow. To have some tools to implement.
Sadie: Don’t be too daunted by the big bad world, there really is no set way to do anything. So stay true to yourself, try your best and realize that behind the scenes, everyone is winging it a bit. Still wish I had a bit more know-how on the business/financial side of things too.
What not to do?
Faustine: Do not rest too much. Prepare your CV and send it everywhere as soon as you can!
Sasu: Never turn down a buyer’s offer to place an order on the collection, at least in the beginning. Pull that money out of your…
Anne Karine: Don’t get overwhelmed and hide under a big rock. Don’t take a long break after graduating, continue working and take the next step straight away.
Sadie: Work with someone you are in a relationship with! Unless you’re a really lucky special pair.
Want some more on CSM’s grads? Here’s our MA 2014 show coverage and backstage footage. For more articles about graduates, have a look in our archives. All drawings in this article were done by Charles Jeffrey, one of the current first year MA students.